Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The bright side and the night side.

It has been a struggle to re-adapt to life in Cambridge after our wonderful summer in Vermont. Nathan is working long hours away from home throughout the week, the girls' return to school has brought some problems along with it, and the traffic is unremittingly horrific. Just when I was ready to pack up my bags and move elsewhere however, Cambridge reminded me of all its best qualities.

As part of the 'Play Me, I'm Yours' initiative, 75 pianos have been set up around the Cambridge and Boston area and the weather has been perfect for a little al fresco busking on the way to and from school. It's a joy to have fragments of piano music drifting down the street and I love the elements of surprise in what people elect to play: at the weekend I saw a teenager with bright purple hair perform an incredible Bach piece while an elderly lady in Harvard Square bashed out a great bit of honky-tonk to the whoops of admiration from her friends.

This weekend was also the New England Americana Festival in Harvard Square. The timing was perfect: Iola had a sleepover with a friend (apparently, first is worst, second is best, third is the one with the hairy chest... and so, Iola solemnly announced beforehand, this would be her friend's best sleepover ever whereas it would have a hairy chest for her!). Maya is old enough to come out with us in the evening, so we all headed out to Club Passim. It was a wonderfully eclectic mix of ukuleles, banjos and the amazing Roy Sludge (we've been singing 'Back the Truck Up' ever since!)

On Saturday, Maya took part in a cook-off competition - part of the City Sprouts scheme of which she had been an intern through the summer. Again, the weather was perfect, a local band were playing music, and local dignitaries evaluated the cooking. Cambridge is a great place to be a child: these kind of events seem to always be well-attended, the judges took their jobs seriously, and every child had something to celebrate (although, philosophically, I have some concerns that the children here have no opportunity to experience even minor defeats).

Saturday night was a revelation for me. For the past thirty years I have worn contact lenses. They give me a good quality of sight during the day but my night vision has never been fantastic. Two weeks ago, I was fitted for new contact lenses. Technology changes: three decades ago, my lenses were tiny convex circles of glass. After a couple of years, my eyes became too dry to wear these, so three tiny holes were drilled into each lens to enable greater oxygenation of my cornea. A few years later, I moved into gas-permeable lenses which allow some exchange of oxygen to the surface of the eye but also mould the cornea to their shape. This month, an optician measured the topography of my eye and fitted me with lenses which have the same rate of oxygen-exchange as the naked eye. My optician (think Woody Allen with more hair) was unremittingly enthusiastic about the potential of these lenses: I would see better, feel better, have greater comfort levels... However, it has been agony as my poor corneas have struggled to adapt to the new lenses and I began to believe that I was just too old and set in my ways to benefit from any more new technologies. As much as my optician bounced around the room with his relentless enthusiasm and waggly eyebrows, I no longer believed a word he said.

And then I went out in the dark.

I have always assumed that night-time has the opacity of mist. It doesn't - and that probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this, because it was certainly of no surprise to poor Nathan who spent Saturday night being the audience to my wonder:
'Nathan, I can see the shapes of the cars behind their headlights! The buildings have edges! The lights don't have blurred halos around them! People have faces!!!'
The plan had been to walk over the river into Boston and enjoy a quiet drink in one of the pubs in Beacon Hill. In the end, we just walked and walked and walked. I was ecstatic about everything I could see and Nathan looking longingly into the windows of the bars and the restaurants we walked past. I know he was looking longingly, because I could see his face!